It can be difficult to make sense of our trials as we endure them. But the Bible always assures us that our difficulties are never purposeless but always in some way purposeful. God is always using them to accomplish something good. This is the theme of this short devotional reflection from my friend Paul Tautges (and drawn from his new book Remade).
The simple gold ring on my left hand is priceless to me. It is my most valuable piece of jewelry because it symbolizes God’s gracious gift of a faithful wife. Originally, it belonged to another man, my wife’s great-grandfather, but was given to my wife by her grandmother when we got engaged. Karen took it to a local jeweler to get it resized so she could place it on my finger on our wedding day. Yet, as valuable as the gold used to make this ring may be, there is something else that is more precious and valued: faith that is tested by fire and proven to be genuine.
Commentator Kenneth Wuest explains the apostle’s illustration of an ancient goldsmith, who
refines the crude gold ore in his crucible. The pure metal is mixed with much foreign material from which it must be separated. The only way to bring about this separation is to reduce the ore to liquid form. The impurities rise to the surface and are then skimmed off. But intense heat is needed to liquefy this ore. So the goldsmith puts his crucible in the fire, reduces the ore to a liquid state and skims off the impurities. When he can see the reflection of his face clearly mirrored in the surface of the liquid, he knows that the contents are pure gold. The smelting process has done its work.
In the same way, the divine Goldsmith turns up the thermostat of our lives to sanctify us. He heats up the smelting furnace of affliction to reveal imperfections in our hearts so they can be skimmed off by our confession and repentance. Today’s Scripture reading makes it clear that God does does this not to defeat us but to prove the “genuineness” of our faith.
This was the case with Job, an Old Testament hero of the faith. God brought Job to the devil’s attention: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8). Satan is not coequal with God. He is a finite creature who is accountable to the Creator. Even though the devil meant his attacks for evil, God meant them for good.
Job understood the process Peter describes. The furnace was turned up to very hot when God permitted Satan to attack Job’s family, health, financial security, and reputation. When Satan’s tsunami came ashore, Job fell in broken, submissive worship (1:20). When blistering heat revealed Job’s pride, Job confessed and repented (see Job 38-39). On the other side of his tragedy and trauma, Job spoke well of God: “When he has tried me, I shall come out [of the smelting pot] as gold” (23:10). Through it all, Job’s faith was tested and proven genuine; his suffering accomplished its intended purposes.
Be encouraged! God is up to something good amid your pain. As the refiner’s fire removes impurities to bring out the beauty of gold, so God uses trials to refine and bring out the beauty of your faith. The Father looks to the heart that clings to him while faith is being refined and sees the image of his Son being revealed. In this, he is pleased and glorified.
(For similar devotional reflections, consider Paul’s book Remade).